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Chainsaw massacre in Carson City
by Andrew Barbano
Dec 06, 2008 | 497 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“No matter how cynical you become, it’s hard to keep up.” – Lily Tomlin

Gov. Jim the Dim has called the state Legislature into special session starting Monday. Lawmakers will arrive with sharpened meat axes and fully fueled chain saws to dismantle what’s left of the state’s educational system.

If they are not already too awash in the blood and tears of future generations, they will conclude their work by collapsing the rest of the government supposed to guarantee us a society where order proceeds from equality under the law. (I know, it’s Nevada. No punchlines, please.)

Of course, all of the perps will decry and disclaim their promulgation of pain and suffering, the equivalent of Freddie Krueger telling a fresh victim, “This is going to hurt me a lot more than it’s going to hurt you.”

Chop. Slash. Aaargh.

The central lesson of Frank Norris’ great muckraker novel “The Octopus” lay in the chilling advice dispensed by the murderous railroad boss facing down the gun of the idealistic young writer who comes to kill him: It’s nobody’s fault, there are only forces.

And so lawmakers will cry genuine tears as they crumble before the overwhelming might of the grotesquely undertaxed mining and gambling industries. Sports welfare queens like Cabela’s, Scheels, bowling and baseball will get short shrift if they are mentioned at all. Remember, people don’t matter, there are only forces.

One of the world’s foremost philosophers, Donald Duck’s Uncle Scrooge, once memorably said that the only way to compete in a world of little men and big machines is to come up with a bigger machine.

In this case, that happens to be Nevada’s second-largest employer, the federal government.

The advance spin says the special session will come up with some stopgaps, including deficit spending in the form of legally questionable borrowing. The real carnage will come to Carson City when the regular session convenes in February.

Based on the sorry track record of Nevada government for decades, students will continue to suffer from Band-Aids placed on gunshot wounds.

Fine by me. The end of the session in June will make the timing right for major litigation to force Nevada government to properly fund education as mandated by the state constitution and longstanding state law.

We will probably end up with a federal judge running our educational system.


Nevada is already prepared for such a relationship. The U.S. District Court and its federal watermaster have managed the waters of the Truckee, Carson and Walker rivers since the 1940s.

Dozens of governments have lost court actions over education funding. Judges even have the power to order tax hikes. Nevada state and local officials prefer raising hidden taxes like fuel, sales and room levies, which are collected by retailers.

Will a judge order that gambling and mining taxes be raised to proper levels? Will tomorrow’s lawmakers have the courage to do what yesterday’s have not?

It’s worth a try because what we’ve been doing won’t work anymore as shutdown looms.

Crunch time

The cheapest learning tool available to K-12 and up is about to be seriously impaired. Now that Reno Mayor Bob Cashell and his fellow councilcritters Dave Aiazzi, Dwight Dortch and (how could you?) Jessica Sferrazza have sold out the little folk, Charter Communications is proceeding with its plan to assassinate community television in northwestern Nevada on Dec. 15.

Using public access TV to broadcast classes is the single most efficient thing schools can do as the wheels come off our always-shaky educational system. Several years ago, Charter moved the Truckee Meadows Community College learning channel to the three-digit premium tier, then broke a promise to provide students with digital receivers. The channel has been a dead zone since, which is what will happen to public, educational and governmental TV once Charter moves those stations to the lightly-surfed, lower-audience, higher-priced digital tier.

About one in five ratepayers will lose community TV in Sparks, Reno, Carson, Washoe and Douglas. They will suffer the added indignity of continuing to pay for the stations through the franchise tax on every cable bill.

At least Reno City Hall considered doing something before they sold us out. Sparks, Carson City, Washoe and Douglas counties have agreed to taxation without representation without firing a shot.

Shame on them all. Maybe they like the idea of having substantially fewer voters able to see what they do in public meetings.

The long-term effect will be to undercut public support for community TV. Stations have been dropping like flies all over the nation. That’s OK for suckers who think that corporate media have the public interest at heart.

But like the Nevada Legislature, which unanimously got us into this mess with its 2007 actions, corporate profitmongers have hearts of gold: cold, yellow and hard. Charter has admitted that greed motivates its assassination of public TV.

Only U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has the clout to ask the Federal Communications Commission to intervene and stop it.

Reid, D-Nev., fought and defeated nationwide telecommunications deregulation in 2005 and is thus hailed as a hero by consumer advocates nationwide.

His local staff recommends sending him letters and postcards via U.S. Mail. (Just like in school, they apparently grade by weight in the federal building.)

Ask Sen. Reid to fight for the consumer position.

Mail to Sen. Harry Reid

400 S. Virginia St, Suite 902

Reno, NV 89501

Please act quickly and also consider joining our new consumer organization, ReSurge.TV, as we gear up for the next round of this fight.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 40-year Nevadan and editor of He hosts live news and talk (682-4144) Monday through Friday, 2 to 4 p.m. on Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter cable channels 16 (as long as it lasts) and 216, streaming at Barbwire.TV. E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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